World Medical Association calls for financing of African health sector

Gloria Essien

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The African Regional Conference of the World Medical Association hosted by the Nigerian Medical Association(NMA) has ended in Abuja with a call on African leaders to increase funding to the health sector.

Thd meeting which focused on End-of-Life-Issues ’tagged: ‘An excursion into the End of Life Spectrum: Defining the boundaries between palliative care, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide’, had in attendance Presidents’ and delegates of National Medical Associations from five(5) African countries.

The countries are, Botswana, Cote D’ivore, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia.

The conference observed that there is yet policies on End of life issues in most African countries , except in Botswana, Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia where some initiatives have been taken on palliative care.

In a communique issued at the end of the meeting and read by the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Mike Ogirima, the conference also observed that many African countries are characterized by poor healthcare institutions, poor healthcare finances,with very low government budgets for healthcare which also affect adversely End of life issues and palliiaive care.

“Religious and cultural values have alot of bearing on the perception on Euthanasia, palliative care and physician assisted suicide in many African countries.

There is low level of awareness on end of life issues except among few professionals, patients affected and their relations” He said.

The communique also desolved that the African Regional meeting resolved that Physician assisted suicide and Euthanasia appears to be in conflict with the physician’s oath which states that “I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat”.

The communique also stated that Physician assisted suicide and euthanasia appear to contradict African cultural beliefs and values.

“There is a general consensus however that palliative care should be strengthened across African countries using the following mechanisms: a. Strengthening national policies on palliative care, increased funding towards palliative care, creating national and regional palliative care centres and the African regional meeting to be intandem with the resolutions of World Medical Association on Euthanasia physician assisted suicide and palliative care as well as the need to in crease awareness and education of policy makers, practitioners and the general public on end of life issues.

Dr. Ogirima added that ” all African countries rejects Euthanasia and and physician Assisted suicide. That is the position. Rather, palliative care should be encouraged and should be strengthened in all African countries with guidelines”

The Secretary General of the World Medical Association, Dr. Otmar Kloiber said that the meeting opened up new discussion to openly address questions of physician assisted suicide.

He said that the African position os the same with the rest of the world.
He also urged African leaders pump more resources to health.

” I have understood that especially the African countries suffer from a shortage of resources for health. It is to me very important that we together work more on universal health coverage. It is really important that every person os covered, has to be insured for health, and with a health insurance that also provides palliative care. So that all people have a chance to get a proper comforting healthcare at the end of their life that does not ruins their families and that not deprive their resources. This is certainly very necessary”. He said.

The Secretary General added politicians needed to be convinced to invest in health which will in return help the economies of countries.